7 soft skills leaders wish they’d learned sooner

7 soft skills leaders wish they’d learned sooner

Working to build your soft skills? Consider these seven soft skill lessons that leaders advise you learn early

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February 26, 2019

5. Storytelling builds advocates – and success

Jason James, CIO, Optima Healthcare Solutions: “Storytelling is a soft skill many leaders struggle with early on in their career; I was no different. I over-communicated with users in hopes of helping them understand issues and provide transparency. In retrospect, my messages were unnecessarily long, overly detailed, and not written for a specific audience. Effective storytelling engages an audience, making them more likely to relate and remember your message. It’s essential for building advocates and getting users excited about embracing new technologies. Your future success will be dependent upon your ability to craft and effectively deliver your story.”

[ Read also: 5 secrets of master storytellers. ]

6. Master prioritization or your team will suffer

Derek Choy, CIO, Rainforest QA: “There are two key factors to being a successful CIO. You have to have the technical skills to keep up with the latest technology, but you also need to be a strong leader. Leadership involves soft skills like team management, clear communication, project prioritization – the list goes on. 

“For the longest time, I was working way more than I should have been.”

“I wish I had learned how to master prioritization earlier in my career. There is no question that prioritization is a very important leadership skill, especially at the CIO level. In the earlier days of my career, I had the impression that prioritization isn’t important if I am capable and able to get everything done. For the longest time, I was working way more than I should have been because I did not focus on this skill. It wasn’t until I realized that not being able to prioritize affects not only my personal success but also my team’s productivity and work/life balance, that I started to work on this very important skill.”

7. Don’t just lead change: Inspire it

Ami Sarnowski, chief innovation officer, Genesis10: “We all talk about the importance of communication skills, but I think that needs to be extended to include change management. As a CIO, the ability to inspire, affect change at all levels within the organization – IT and business – provide context on how a project or a team fits within the puzzle, or just to gain buy-in is incredibly important to engage, inspire, and align the team with the CIO’s vision and strategic direction. 

“[For] leaders, garnering support and buy-in across the company and placing importance on developing and maintaining relationships with business partners is another key area. It’s not just about the technology. Developing and maintaining relationships is not easy. It takes time, and a CIO needs to be thoughtful. This is an area that far too often gets overlooked.

“Equally important is building a solid team of directs. As CIOs progress in their careers, they lose touch at a detailed level, something all leaders have to adjust in terms of their management style. A solid team of directs will help to extend the CIO’s voice.”

[ Is your leadership playbook outdated? Read our new report from HBR Analytic Services: Transformation Masters: The New Rules of CIO Leadership. ]


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